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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 100


Senator ALLISON (8:16 PM) —I will make some comments about that point. Minister, I think it is reasonable for you to justify some aspects of the bill. It does not seem to be unreasonable in a debate about legislation which introduces new conditions. We are not talking here about conditions that have been around for a while and are being moderately changed; we are talking about new conditions. To take up the point about performance information being publicly available, one of the major problems with the way we approach schooling at the present time is the public availability of information about school results, known in most circles as `leagues tables'. This is where schools are compared one with the other in terms of so-called performance. Usually, it is fairly raw data about outcomes—the number of students who get into university, their entrance scores or some such thing. It does not take into account the number of students, for instance, in the school who have learning disabilities or who come from disadvantaged or non-English-speaking backgrounds.

That is the problem with a system that reports school performance on the basis of student performance. It is very difficult to assess the performance of a school unless you know what that school is dealing with in the first place. There are some schools with enormous disadvantages. I am sure I could bore you for the rest of the night with details about some of the schools I have been into. Most of them do a great job but at the end of the day you probably could not compare them with selective schools or with schools that can exclude students who are difficult to teach. That is why we have suggested that this is not an appropriate condition to set. Leagues tables set one school against the other and make a very competitive environment. No-one has been able to demonstrate that that is educationally worth while or sound or helps anybody, apart from those schools that charge higher fees than others. There is no demonstrable reason why so-called school performance information should be publicly available.

I think we should be interested in the performance of schools, certainly, but making it publicly available so that some schools are disadvantaged does not seem to be worth while. Let us give the resources to schools that need to work a bit harder to achieve the goals of schooling. Let us look at the performance of principals, teachers, school committees and whatever you like in schools. I think that is a worthwhile thing to do, but simply publishing leagues tables of the so-called performance of schools without looking at other aspects seems to me to be problematic. That is why we have moved an amendment that would stop that.